Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are industrial chemicals that were manufactured from 1929 to 1979, when they were banned. PCBs have been shown to have adverse health effects, including potential cancers, and negative effects on the immune, nervous and endocrine systems.
PCBs can pose serious health risks to people who frequently eat contaminated fish. They can be transferred from a mother to her unborn child. This increases the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight. They can also be transferred from mother to baby through breast milk, and exposure has been linked to learning disabilities.
PCBs in water, air, soil
PCB remnants still circulate between air, water and soil. Traces of it can be found all over the world. They are deposited in water and sediments, where they are taken up by small organisms. Then they accumulate more and more in the fats and organs such as the liver of fish and animals (including humans) that eat them. Small amounts are found in meat, dairy products and drinking water. Fish are the main dietary sources of PCBs, especially fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers.
PCBs in fish: various depending on the fish and its place of fishing
The level of PCBs in fish varies by region and the type of fish native to that region. So if you eat fish caught by your family or friends, check local reviews. In general, bottom-feeding fish (bass, eel, sea trout) and large predatory fish (bass, trout, pike, zander) caught in contaminated waters contain higher levels of PCBs. Farmed salmon fed groundfish contain more PCBs than wild salmon.
Measures to reduce exposure to contaminants such as PCBs:
– Cut the fatty parts (belly, upper back and dark meat on the side)
– Remove skin before cooking to allow fat to drain
– Grill the fish and let the fat drain
– limit your consumption of fish containing high levels of PCBs, such as farmed salmon
With respect to salmon, their guidelines specify
Wild Pacific salmon, fresh or frozen, can be eaten up to twice a month
Fresh or frozen farmed Atlantic salmon can be eaten once every two months
What to do in the end
Eat a variety of fish twice a week and keep portion sizes around 100 grams. When eating fatty fish like salmon, make sure they are prepared according to the guidelines above. When catching your own fish, find out beforehand about the levels of PCB pollution in the water.